Oluwadunsin Bolaji’s Inspiring Journey in Afrocentric Accessories and Social Entrepreneurship

25under25 Award Winner 2023 Spotlight for a Campaign titled Dreamers to Doers
  • Congratulations on winning the 25Under25 Awards! Could you tell us the story behind Dunsincraft Collection Limited and what inspired you to venture into the Afrocentric accessory industry?

My journey as an Afrocentric accessory designer began as an undergraduate. Whenever I visited the market to buy a new handbag, all I would find were knockoff handbags adorned with fake Gucci and Louis Vuitton logos.
It never made sense why people would settle for imitations when everyone knew they weren’t genuine. It frustrated me to see a need for more originality in these designs, especially when those made in Nigeria still had to put foreign logos on the bags just to sell out.
This ongoing predicament sparked a fire within me. I became determined to create my designs, ones that would be truly original and stand out from the monotonous amount of imported bags. I had a brilliant idea to incorporate African fabrics into my bag designs.
That was how I founded my company, DunsinCraft Collection. This was in 2017.

  • Afrocentricity is a central theme in your brand. How do you infuse cultural elements into your accessories, and what significance do these cultural inspirations hold for you?

Yes, Afrocentrism is the theme for my accessory brand. We infuse cultural elements such as African fabrics including Ankara, Adire, Aso Oke, cowries, etc into our accessories to tell stories of culture and tradition.
The significance these cultural inspirations hold for me is the possibilities it’s creating about the African Fashion Industry with the rest of the world. The global fashion accessory market was valued at $321.5 billion in 2020, yet the representation of African cultural heritage within this market remains relatively limited.
This lack of representation fails to cater to the growing demand for culturally authentic accessories among individuals of African descent and others who desire to experience African culture through fashion.
This highlights the tangible gap in the market for authentic and culturally representative Afrocentric accessories. I founded DunsinCraft Collection to address this problem by offering a wide range of handcrafted accessories made with African fabrics to showcase the rich heritage of Africa.
With the surging interest in black-owned businesses and the rich traditions of Africa, from its vibrant fabrics to exceptional craftsmanship, there’s a growing acceptance of African-inspired designs both on the continent and internationally.
Moreover, the allure of exporting African-made bags adds yet another layer of promise, opening avenues for sustainable growth within the African fashion sector. My ultimate vision is to stand as the foremost exporter of Afrocentric Products on a global scale, contributing significantly to the promotion and celebration of African culture and heritage through fashion.

  • Winning a prestigious award must have been a remarkable achievement. How has this recognition impacted your brand’s visibility and growth trajectory?

Winning the SME 100 “25 under 25” Social Entrepreneurship Award 2023 was indeed a remarkable achievement.
One of the reasons I became an entrepreneur is to give back to my community. Being an entrepreneur helped me become a financially independent woman and also gave me the ability to directly improve the lives of others on a local, national, and even global scale. As my fashion business grows and becomes more profitable, I can provide many hardworking but underprivileged people with good-paying jobs and help them achieve a higher quality of life.
I have embraced a multifaceted role that reflects my commitment, leadership qualities, and personal journey. I channel my own experiences as an underprivileged child, raised by a widow who had to hawk food on the streets to keep my siblings fed, to connect with the young girls and women I’m empowering. This personal connection gives me the empathy and understanding needed to make a meaningful impact in my community.
Having empowered over 2,500 young women and girls through skill acquisition training and repurposed fabric waste into free functional school bags which has impacted 1,677 children, I believe the award was a pat on the shoulder.
The award has given me and my brand more credibility, exposure, and recognition. I mentioned it during my application process with YALI and got accepted into the emerging leadership program cohort 48 happening in Accra, Ghana. So yes, this award has impacted me.

  • Collaboration often plays a significant role in the fashion industry. Have you partnered with other designers or brands, and if so, how have these collaborations influenced your designs and business approach?

DunsinCrafts recently partnered with Tayo Ishola, founder of I AM EIDO, a resort and swimwear brand in Florida, Miami at the Fort Lauderdale Fashion Week 2024.
This partnership opened my Afrocentric accessory brand to a whole new world and audience and the feedback has been incredible. It was a great opportunity to showcase my African-inspired designs to the diaspora and I’m beyond proud that they resonated with my brand and I got new customers.
I’m looking forward to exploring more collaborations in the next few months.

  • How does your brand make sure that it uses sustainable practices in its production processes and materials? Sustainability is becoming more important in the fashion industry, and it is crucial to align with these practices.

At DunsinCrafts, we are committed to sustainable practices in our production processes and materials. Through our products and initiatives, our work at DunsinCrafts has a significant social, economic, and environmental impact on our community.
We prioritize design and durability, believing that it is essential to reduce fashion waste and extend the life of our products. For example, our waterproof and dirt-resistant solutions come with a lifetime guarantee, increasing their lifespan and reducing overconsumption and waste.
Our initiatives are aligned with the UN SDGs, promoting cultural heritage, women empowerment, sustainability, and community engagement. As a sustainable Afrocentric accessory brand, we upcycle pre-consumer fabric waste obtained during bag production into unique school bag designs. We promote fashion waste reduction and recycling, setting an example for responsible business practices within the fashion industry.
Through the School Bag Initiative, we address the challenge of access to quality education for underprivileged children in underdeveloped communities. By providing the children with up-cycled school bags made from waste and empowering them through entrepreneurship and skill training, we tackle SDGs 4 and 12 and work towards greater educational equity, reducing poverty in our community.
To contribute towards SDG 12 (Responsible production and consumption), we incorporate sustainable designs into our products. Our drawstring bags, for example, can be repurposed as both backpack and shopping tote bags or used as a storage solution. Our jewelry can also be repurposed as a decorative element in the home.
In adherence to sustainable practices, our production model is intricately designed to operate on a demand-driven basis. Each product is meticulously crafted only upon receipt of a customer’s order. This intentional approach serves to mitigate the environmental impact associated with overproduction and contributes to our commitment to reducing wastage in the fashion industry. By aligning our production with actual demand, we aim to champion eco-conscious practices and foster a more sustainable future for fashion.
The inception of the School Bag Initiative can be traced back to 2017 when I confronted the challenge of textile waste piling up from my fashion business. As a “fabric hoarder,” I sought a sustainable solution to not only address the waste issue but also make a meaningful impact. Observing children attending a public secondary school close to my apartment without proper school bags sparked the idea of repurposing these fabric scraps into free functional school bags which has impacted 1,677 children.
Unlike existing alternatives that might focus solely on either waste reduction or education access, this initiative elegantly tackles both. By repurposing fabric scraps into school bags, we not only reduce textile waste but also provide essential tools for underprivileged children to attend school with dignity. This holistic solution effectively meets an unmet need by weaving together sustainability and education access, shaping a new narrative for social and environmental responsibility.

  • Your designs appeal to a diverse audience while staying true to your brand’s identity. How do you tailor them?

Our market segmentation includes 80 percent of women between the ages of 25 to 45, with a primary focus on customers located in Nigeria, and other African and black-populated countries who are fashion-forward individuals looking to express their cultural representation through fashion.
We have a user-friendly online store to cater to both local and international customers, providing a wide range of products and secure payment options.
At DunsinCrafts, we also utilize platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to showcase products, engage with the target audience, and run targeted ad campaigns.
We partner with local boutiques and retailers in Nigeria and other black African populated areas to expand distribution and reach a broader audience, engage in trade fairs, exhibitions, and pop-up shops at strategic locations to introduce the brand and engage with potential customers directly.
With these few strategies, we tailor our products to our target customers and stay true to our brand values.

  • The Afrocentric accessory market is highly competitive. What strategies do you use to stay innovative and maintain your brand’s relevance?

When I started my brand, the feedback I mostly received from my customers back then was that the fabrics used for the bags and jewelry usually get dirty. You see, these fabrics are susceptible to dust, sweat, and rain and when in contact with water, the product starts losing its quality and the fabric fades faster.
So using my background in biology as a confidence boost, I carried out a one-year research project and experimented till I found a satisfactory solution.
What makes DunsinCrafts stands out from its competitors is our unique feature of treating our Afrocentric accessories to be waterproof and dirt resistant, which enhances their durability and extends their lifespan.
This feature ensures that customers can enjoy their fashion items for a longer period, providing added value and cost-effectiveness compared to competitors’ offerings.

  • What advice would you give aspiring fashion entrepreneurs launching their brands?

The advice I would give aspiring fashion entrepreneurs launching their brands is to keep at it…. Stay consistent. Even when the sales aren’t coming in as they should or you aren’t getting the recognition you deserve, just stay the course and keep improving your skills. The best is yet to come. Rooting for you!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Mary

    The detailing in DCC is top notch!
    The story is so inspiring and beautiful ❤️

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